The stairs made her dizzy, the swaying of the torch in her hand didn’t solve matters. Sadiq was already on the 4th floor, banging on their eldest brothers door. He unlocked it, his face puzzled and asking what the matter was.
They simply pointed downstairs. Sprinting close to one another, they reached the 1st floor. “The kitchen,” Ameena faintly whispered. By now, she couldn’t fathom what she was doing. Is it a dream? Please wake up now! Pinching her arm only made her squirm in pain. Definitely not a dream.
Bala was getting annoyed by the second. Were his siblings putting a trick on him? They remained by the staircase while he went into the kitchen. The both of them clung to each other, praying fervently, wishing they had called Uncle Musa instead. Ya Allah, I hope whatever that thing is hasn’t done anything to Kaka and Dada. The three grandparents’ room was on the ground floor, few feet away from the kitchen. Knowing her grandparents, if that hollow creature attacked them, they might try fighting back. After what seemed like hours, he emerged, hissing. “What is wrong with you two? Waking someone up for your nonsense.”
“N-No-Nothing?” They sputtered at the same time, then looked at each other, fear clearly written in their eyes. They knew what they saw. It was clearly there.
“Are you sure? Maybe…”
“There’s nothing there,” He almost shouted before pushing passed them, and jogging towards his room. Halfway towards the spiral curve, he turned, addressing them. “You better go to bed. It’s late.”
For the first time since they arrived, Ameena regretted having a room all to herself. When they moved in days ago, Mom insisted they leave 2 rooms for guests. “One of the rooms on the third floor and another on the fourth has to be for guests, understood?” Mom had firmly said when they were choosing their rooms. The grandparents were given two bedrooms on the ground floor. It was simple logic. They couldn’t be climbing the stairs due to their age.
Mom and Dad had the biggest room on the 4th floor. Bala, being the eldest had a room to himself. So when Ameena got a whole room to herself, she was hyper. Now she wished she was staying with one of the girls. She momentarily thought of going to Madina’s room but knew how the girl slept. By morning, she’d have backaches, and whatnots. As she curled on her bed, she silently prayed. Pointing her torch towards the door, she heaved a sigh. It is locked. The torch lighted the room brightly but she wasn’t at ease, so she pointed it directly at the door. Whoever comes in, I’d have to notice immediately, she encouraged herself. She finally slept after a long time.
“Anyone went outside last night?” Mom asked, rolling some strawberry jam onto a waffle. The family was already up and about preparing for the day. It was a bright sunny morning, white clouds drifting across the light blue sky. But it was also chilly.
“No, I don’t think so. Did something happen?” Ameena replied, her mind suddenly rushing back to the night before. Did Mom see something?
“Esther said the back door was open when she arrived this morning.”
“Oh?” Abubakar looked at Ameena, eyes wide. Scooting closer to her, he whispered. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“What’re you thinking though?”
“That whoever scared us last night left the door open.”
Ameena swallowed a piece of waffle, thinking. “You could be right. If that’s the case,” She sucked in a sharp breath. Ishaq who was sitting next to her asked if everything was okay. “Yeah, yeah. Everything’s fine.” Turning back, she continued whispering, “Do you realise what this means?” Her eyes widened, “That person might have entered through the door. They have our key, they… Oh my God.”
“No way. We aren’t safe.”
“Sis, we need to tell someone.”
“And then what? Risk being called crazy? Uh-uh.”
“Fuck.” That morning, both of them had told Mom what happened. She had looked at them strangely before concluding that they were probably dreaming. To make matters worse, Bala had testified against them insisting that they woke him up and claimed they saw something. But when he went downstairs, everything was normal.
“You two might have been sleepwalking. Have you been sleeping very well?” Hajiya Fatima’s eyebrows creased. Then she started a whole new lecture on sleeping disorders and patterns.
No way would they make the mistake of telling someone again. Mom clearly hadn’t believed them. The first thing they had to do was make sure what they saw was real. It could be someone breaking into the house at night to scare them.
At school, Ameena fought hard to concentrate as the lecturer discussed Design, but her mind was far away. She had thought of various reasons why someone would sneak into the house. Was it some curious person trying to see what the house looked like? She had heard some things about the mansion. It was like a tourist’s destination back in the day. It was possible some people were curious to see what it looked like now that it had been renovated and fully furnished. Or it could be a jobless person... But nothing was stolen. And could she explain the figure that had scared them. She wasn’t the only one that saw it. It was real, but at the same time, transparent. Like a glass. But in human form.
During one of her talks in the morning with Sadiq, he had suggested something rather out-of-this-world. “What if we have a ghost in the house?” He had told her. She had grimaced, and looked at him in a funny way. Ghost are not real. That is out of the question.
She shielded her face with her handout, rushing to a canteen outside the school building. It was a hot afternoon, the sun shining fiercely. She immediately ordered a drink, fanning herself with the folded paper even though there was an air conditioner on full blast.
“Haw far na.” Dayana sipped her juice, her hot pink lipstick smearing the tip of the glass where she drunk from.
“Kai, me o I’m thinking of changing my major. These math equations, I can’t handle it anymore.” Fadila lamented. She was also in her 1st year, studying Accounting.
“Deal with it. You can’t go about changing majors, now and then.” Yemi retorted.
She glared at him, hissing, “and who asked you? I’m talking to ma girls.” They continued bickering, each insisting he was right, forgetting they were not alone. Dayana noticed how quiet Ameena was, and nudged her. “Have you gotten the slip signed?”
“Yeah, but the next one, they said the person in charge is busy, that I should come back on Friday.”
“Okay na, we’ll go together then.”
Ameena simply nodded. Now that she was here, she might as well ask. It had been bugging her since last night, but she didn’t know who to ask. Maybe they know something. They’re from here after all. “I wanted asking, do you know, like anyone that lived in the mansion before?”
Fadila snapped around instantly, mouth slightly open like she needed to say something but kept mute and turned away.
“No, I don’t know anyone there o.” Yemi answered, looking over at Fadila. “You look pale.”
Fadila stuffed her handouts into her bag and rose. “I got to go.”
“But I thought you got no classes for the day?”
“Yep. I just remembered, I have to enter market on my way home. Bye guys.” She blew a kiss at them, rushing out through the back door.
Even in Ameenas’ troubled state, she knew something was wrong. In the short amount of time she had known the girl, she had been bubbly and confident. Fadila looked concerned sort of. Did she have an answer to her question? Then why didn’t she say a thing?
“What’s wrong with Fadila?” Ibrahim asked. He had arrived moments ago and was sitting next to Ameena now.
“Don’t know. She just... left.” Ameena answered, glancing towards the back door.